Sunday, May 15, 2016
I awoke to the sound and rattle of wind, moaning in the eves of my house and bending the branches of the trees outside my windows. When I went downstairs I could hear the chimes on my porch dancing crazily in their minor key.
As I awakened on Pentecost Sunday to the sound and rattle of wind, the people of my congregation were soon to gather, to hear the story:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. ~Acts 2:1-4
There is something about this description that thrills and unnerves me. To experience wind, unmediated by the reasonably strong walls of a building around you, is to know a primal sense of vulnerability. This invisible thing is moving you, pushing you, howling at you. It is the stuff of nightmares, or horror flicks. At the same time, when assured of our safety, it is exciting, it is heady. Growing up at the shore we would flock to the ocean as hurricanes were coming in, and gather outside our cars in our rain gear (except umbrellas; don't bother with them, they're useless in the wind) to watch the effect the wind had on the ocean, to feel it push us around.
Things change when you see the destruction wind can leave in its path. Now my hometown knows what it is to be the place where the second most expensive hurricane in US history makes landfall. People there know what happens when you can't afford to recover from the damage, or to prepare for the next time. People there know what wind can do to your little life.
Wind is dangerous. So, scripture and mystics and poets agree, is God. A post to the Facebook RevGalBlogPals page reminded me of this quote of Annie Dillard's:
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.
~ from Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper and Rowe 1982
I think Dillard's onto something. Pentecost is, at the very least, our annual notice that the waking God wants to draw us out to someplace new, someplace likely to be frightening, thrilling and unnerving, all at once. The waking God of Jesus wants us to walk where he has walked and further-- to walk where we haven't yet dared to walk, but where the wind and fire and healing power of the Spirit are sorely needed.